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The Walking Dead - First Time Again - Review

The Walking Dead returned for season six with “First Time Again” written by the team of Scott M Gimple and Matthew Negrete and directed by Greg Nicotero. This episode was possibly the most ambitious yet. The team behind the show and the stars have been teasing and promising a bigger than ever season with non-stop action, and this first episode certainly delivered that. The show is definitely more than a horror, gore and action-fest though, managing to include interesting and thoughtful character development.

The most striking thing about this episode is the wonderful use of black and white juxtaposed with color scenes. The black and white scenes follow the earlier storyline while the color scenes are the current action. The two are cut together until the first color scene is seen in black and white almost at the end of the episode. The disjointed nature of the narrative helps to ramp up the tension. It also is a nice reflection of how off kilter the residents of Alexandria are as they see their safe haven finally exposed.

The current action picks up first with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) explaining the plan to herd the quarry walkers away from Alexandria. Once the semi falls in, all bets are off, and it’s clear that Rick’s team are the only ones really equipped to deal with this kind of crisis. The black and white storyline picks up pretty much where last season ended. Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) is sitting in Reg’s blood and she and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) realize they were wrong – they need Rick in this world.

Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) is trying to deal with her husband’s death with her boys. Ron (Austin Abrams) is not dealing with it well. He follows Rick and Morgan (Lennie James) when they go to bury his father and he’s almost killed by walkers. I loved the shot of Rick coming out of nowhere to tackle the kid and then he and Morgan putting the walkers over the cliff. Of course, this is how they find the quarry full of walkers and realize it’s the only thing that has saved the town up until now.

Glenn (Steven Yuen) staggers into the infirmary with Nicholas (Michael Traynor) and Glenn lies about Nicholas shooting him, saying he was hit by a ricochet. Rosita (Christian Serratos) is already there with a now awake Tara (Alanna Masterson). Eugene (Josh McDermitt) walks in and his reaction to seeing Tara awake is priceless. McDermitt is terrific in this episode. Masterson is also in fine form as she says, “Thank God! Nothing happened to your hair!” The mood becomes somber again when she asks for Noah.

The hair theme comes up again when we meet Heath (Corey Hawkins). Hawkins is a terrific addition to the cast. It’s a nice moment of lightness when Eugene is at the gate when Heath returns with Scott (Kenric Green) and Annie (Beth Keener). Heath convinces Eugene to let them in and Eugene tells him, “Good to see someone like me. I fully respect the hair game.” Like most people, Heath doesn’t quite know what to make of Eugene.

Morgan and Rick have several interesting conversations over the course of the episode. Rick tells Morgan that he doesn’t take chances anymore. While Morgan agrees that he shouldn’t, it’s also clear that Morgan has found a different way. When Rick tells Morgan he shot Pete for killing Reg, Morgan points out that Rick has a cell. Rick maintains it’s not for killers. Morgan replies, “I’m a killer, and you are too.”

Rick explains to Morgan that the people in Alexandria hadn’t had to survive. They’d just lived, but Deanna had brought them in to show them how to survive. When they take Pete’s body out to bury it, Rick actually suggests not burying it, but Morgan insists that’s not who Rick is. After saving Ron, Rick has a change of heart, and he’s the one to start digging the grave. Rick tells Ron that he’ll teach him how to protect himself. In the end, Jessie insists that Rick can’t be the one to do it. In fact, Rick is trying to teach all of the residents of Alexandria how to save themselves. When they are building the lane to herd the walkers and are attacked by walkers, Rick tries to make the Alexandrians save themselves, but Morgan jumps in and then the others are also forced to help.

Rick is really only able to mobilize the townspeople because Deanna tells them to do as he says. I loved Carol (Melissa McBride) in this scene, stating that it was “terrifying” and acting like the wide eyed innocent. Rick still has her hang back to keep an eye on the townsfolk and how they are feeling. Morgan, however, sees right through her. I loved that he asked her if she’d been a cop too! He tells her, “You’re always watching. You always seem ready.” Carol replies with an innocent, “Aren’t you sweet.”

Carter (Ethan Embry) is completely unwilling to acknowledge where the real danger is and he tries to instigate some of the others to kill Rick. When Eugene knocks over a bunch of stuff in the pantry, Carter is about to kill him to keep him quiet when Rick bursts in. I doubt very much whether Carter could have killed Eugene in cold blood. He certainly can’t handle the walkers. I loved Rick pointing out the flaw in his plan – I would have set up look outs – before punching him. Rick forces Carter to his knees with a gun to his head and asks him, “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” In his defense, Carter doesn’t try to put the blame on the others with him, showing a little courage by completely taking the blame to protect the others. Rick doesn’t kill him and tells him that he can work with them and try to survive.

Rick had Morgan locked up – he doesn’t take chances and they need to come to know each other again – for the first time because really they don’t know each other. It becomes clear that Morgan does know who Rick is even if Rick has forgotten it. I loved the scene with Morgan and Rick on the porch. Rick is holding Judith and invites Morgan to move into the house with the rest of the group. Morgan tells Rick that he’s the same Rick he met the first time. He’s really the Rick who showed mercy to Carter in the armory and the Rick who is a father and who invited Morgan to join their core group.

Rick, however, explains that he wanted to kill Carter so that he wouldn’t have to worry about his next screw up. Carter is someone who shouldn’t still be alive. He didn’t kill him because he knew he didn’t have to because someone like that is going to die no matter what he does. And the next scene flashes forward to exactly that. In the end, after being utterly negative about the whole plan, Carter admits to Rick that he was wrong and shakes his hand. The title resonates here as well as these people are learning to survive for the first time and Rick and the others are watching a “first time” again. Carter goes off to take point and gets bitten. Rick has to kill him – he’s dying anyway – to stop him screaming and distracting the herd.

There is at least one shot that’s going to become iconic from this episode and it’s Daryl (Norman Reedus) coming over the hill with the herd right behind him. It’s just a gorgeous shot – something Nicotero really has an eye for. Reedus doesn’t have many scenes in this episode, but the two with Lincoln are, as usual, terrific.

Rick tells Daryl that he doesn’t think they need to be going out and finding new people any more. He realizes that Daryl feels differently. Daryl doesn’t immediately tell him why though, and that’s so typically Daryl that he needs time to articulate it. Later in the episode, Daryl simply comes up to Rick and says, “going out and finding more people is taking care of ourselves. Your call though.” He’s not trying to challenge Rick’s leadership in any way. For Daryl, looking after other people is a way to find meaning and purpose in a hopeless world. He’s also right that there is strength in numbers if they gather people who can help them.

Meanwhile, Glenn has been tasked with taking care of a tractor store that is full of loud walkers who will pull the herd from their route. I think Glenn and Heath are going to make a great team. Nicholas is also assigned to them – mainly because Glenn doesn’t trust him but has only told Maggie about what he did in the woods. It does seem that Nicolas has changed and he does what Glenn asks of him though he does initially ignore Glenn’s headshake no at the meeting to volunteer to help anyway. He takes orders and even defends Glenn’s abilities to Heath at the tractor store. It was another nice light moment when the three open the door at the store only to find another reinforced door!

Maggie and Tara share a terrific scene. Glenn has told Maggie to stay back and keep an eye on Deanna, who is clearly struggling very hard after her husband’s death. Tara knows that Nicholas got Noah killed and Maggie tells her about his luring Glenn into the woods. Glenn left it up to Maggie about whether to tell everyone which would get Nicholas exiled – and mean his certain death. Maggie and Glenn really stand out as a couple who are able to maintain their humanity even in the face of the greatest odds. Maggie explains to Tara that she thought about her in making the decision. How they were on opposite sides of the fence (literally and figuratively) on the worst day of Maggie’s life and now she’s one of the most important people in Maggie’s life. Tara had been sheltered before ending up with the Governor and really learning about the world. Tara has become a strong, valuable member of the group because she wanted to change and make up for what she did. Clearly, Maggie is willing to give Nicolas the same chance.

Finally, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) share herding duties with Daryl to lure the herd away from Alexandria. Abraham is clearly struggling in this episode. Sasha, however, seems to have turned a corner. When Abraham asks if she sees it as basically a suicide mission, she says no – and it’s clear that she means it. Abraham, however, recklessly jumps out of the car and runs through the walkers to get them back on the road. He seems manically elated when he gets back in the car. I’m curious as to what is really going to finally get through to him.

The episode ends with the herd turning off the road when they hear a horn blaring. There’s a terrific crane shot of them doing so. And naturally, they’re heading for Alexandria! This was both a beautifully shot and structured episode with the “flashbacks” interweaving meaningfully with the “present” storyline and dovetailing when we see the first “present” shot in black and white as it brings the entire story full circle. As a season premiere, it really gives us some insight into the psyche of our group and where their humanity is. They still have it even if they don’t take – as many – chances.

What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The X-Files, Defiance, Bitten, Killjoys, and a few others! I'm active on the Con scene when I have the time. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.
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